Agra: Union MoS Culture (I/C) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Mahesh Sharma during the inauguration of a permanent photo exhibition near the newly constructed visitor's facility centre at the eastern gate of Taj Mahal, at the Foundati. Image Source: IANS News

Agra Feb 14 : Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma here on Thursday inaugurated the green river front on the Taj Heritage Corridor, sandwiched between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.

The debris and dumps of garbage on the stretch along the Yamuna river have been cleared and a lush green "Taj-view-garden" has been developed.

The minister also opened a permanent exhibition of photos at the facilities centre on the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. Sharma asked officials to develop the park as an international attraction with appropriate amenities to enable tourists spend evenings in the shadow of the Fort and the Taj.

Taj Mahal is our precious heritage and we want our historical glory presented before the world, he said.

The controversial Rs 175-crore Corridor project had brought down the Mayawati government in 2003. The UP Horticulture Department in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has resurrected the project.

The Supreme Court in 2006 had asked the ASI to remove debris from the corridor site and develop the 80-acre of reclaimed land as a green buffer to insulate the Taj Mahal from air pollution. But for want of resources, it took more than a decade for work to start.

Till recently, the land was being used as a dumping ground for garbage and also as burial place for children and aborted foetuses.

The 80-acre platform, recovered through dredging of the river bed and refilling of the open space, had been left unfinished after corruption charges were levelled against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)chief Mayawati.

However, local environmentalists say the so-called heritage corridor is, legally speaking, an encroachment on the Yamuna riverbed. "That was the reason why the work was stopped. Now instead of dismantling and removing debris, they are seeking to legitimise encroachment of public land," said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

According to Tourism Department officials, the turnstile gates will be opened on February 21 and help in reducing queues of visitors. Steps had been taken to reduce human load on the main structure by raising the ticket rates, they added.

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